You’re in a fight with your SO, your train to work was super delayed, and you arrive at your desk to find out that your to-do list (which was already pretty lengthy) just doubled in size. So, naturally, you’re on the verge of tears—but you’re at the office. What do you do?
Most people try to stifle crying as much as they physically can, no matter how distressed they might be. (If there’s no crying in baseball, the common line of thinking is that there’s definitely no crying at your desk.) But according to some pros, it’s actually healthier to let it out at work—in the proper way, of course.
“I used to think [crying at work] was a sign of weakness and hid it, so that it festered,” says Rachel Kim, career strategist and coach at SoFi, an online finance company. “Then I learned a lot about the importance of positive psychology and how that affects being successful.”
“I used to think [crying at work] was a sign of weakness and hid it, so that it festered.”
Even though it can be intimidating to let down your professional wall and show your emotions, it also can have surprising upsides—including major growth opportunities and the chance to actually improve your mindset.
“At the end of the day, all of us are trying to find a place [where] we can belong, wherever we are,” says Kim. “Showing a bit of a human side will help that and bring more personality into the workplace, rather than remaining a separate work self.”
Need more proof that it’s okay to cry in the office? Here’s why it’s totally healthy—plus, the best ways of doing so.
1. It’s actually better for your overall health
When you hold in your tears, your chest starts to tighten—and that leads to an overall feeling of tension that’s really uncomfortable. You shouldn’t have to experience that, regardless of where you are (hello, cortisol).
“To be really successful at work, you not only have to bring technical skills but your best mental health everyday,” says Kim. If there’s something that’s bringing up emotion in your life—from family issues to a bad breakup—it can be (immensely) difficult to prevent yourself from crying. That’s why Kim firmly believes you should process those feelings in some way, “so you can be a better self,” she says.
2. You’ll do some self-learning
Sometimes it can be tough dealing with adversity at work (hey, it’s not really something you learn in school). “If, by nature, you’re someone who’s more sensitive to criticism, or there are some things people say that immediately lead to your eyes to well up in tears, it’s good to figure out those triggers,” says Kim. “It helps to get to know yourself better around those emotions, because from there you can learn tools that manage them. Actually listen to your tears.”
This is something you can work on with a friend or a coach—either way, Kim advises that whenever you’re upset, take a step back to process what caused you to become emotional. “Take deep breaths, and if you have to tell your colleague that you need a moment, do that,” she says. Once you realize what creates this sad feeling for you, it’s easier to figure out ways to best respond to certain adverse situations or even grow by overcoming that obstacle. The payoff? You’re even more of a rockstar employee.
3. It’s not a sign of weakness
The key, when it comes to getting teary at work, is to understand the power of communication (you know, that little thing you’re always reminding your SO about).
“I’ve come to realize that talking to people is a sign of power,” Kim says. In other words, being clear with your boss or colleagues about your feelings will lead them to respect you—you’re more human that way. “Tell them you’d love to take time out to process and come back to have a more productive convo,” says Kim. “This lets you take control of the situation and gives you the chance to find out the reason behind your emotions.”
Once you do this, you’ll want to hide—okay, kidding! But you will want to find somewhere that’s not totally public. “You have to try to find a safe space, like the bathroom, to get your emotions back,” she explains. “Rather than fighting it, go someplace private and let it out.”
With that emotional release, you’ll be able to face the problem clear-headed—and, of course, like a total boss.
For more ways to kick ass at work, this is what successful women do (almost) every day. And these are 5 surprising ways that thriving women power their careers.